June 1st and the 1st time I’ve ever been to (a) The Adam and Eve pub (Digbeth) and (b) Sunday Xpress, a pretty much monthly FREE spoken word and music event compered by Birmingham’s unofficial poet laureate Big Bren. Given that the Adam and Eve’s been there for a hundred years or so (I’m guessing) and Sunday Xpress has been running since 2006 that’s a pretty shabby state of affairs on my part but there we go, I blame the irresistible lure of Songs of Praise, Countryfile and the Antiques Roadshow (hell yeah, cut me and I bleed rock ‘n’ roll).
With an open mic segment at the start of all Sunday Xpress shows you genuinely never know what you’re going to get. This particular instalment dished up (deep breath) Ray Rowley and his musings on boy bands and bad knees, Lee with a poem about Bilderberg, Andrew Owens and his tale of a babysitter slayer and Jody’s contemplative piece on simplicity. Now that’s variety my friends. With just enough time to grab a restorative pint of Strongbow and some FREE grub laid on by the pub (I think I may have overdosed on sausage rolls) two of urban poet The Infamous Scrubberjack’s grandkids rocked up to perform, Lee (I think he was called Lee) demonstrated an impressive ear for accents (surely a career as a voiceover artist beckons) before brother Whizzy spat out 4 finely ferocious raps with barely a fluffed line (try saying that after three pints of Strongbow). They warmed things up nicely for gran. Don’t go expecting a sweet, grey haired old lady with pockets full of Werther’s Originals though. The Infamous Scrubberjack inhabits a world that makes Benefits Street sound like Park Lane. Stuffed full of crackheads, hookers and petty criminals her language was as fruity as a bottle of 20/20...and all the better for it. On a mission to take over the entire event granddaughter Chloe also stepped up, singing Let It Go (from Disney’s Frozen I believe...) acapella, which takes guts in front of a pub full of people. A talented bunch this family...must be a riot at Christmas time.
Fresh (or maybe not so fresh seeing as it probably went on all night) from the nearby Supersonic Festival Steve Pottinger’s John Cooper Clarke inspired You’ll Never See A Nipple On Facebook raised a titter...as it were...whilst his tale of a Friday night journey from Digbeth to London Victoria on a National Express coach made the whole thing sound like a glorious episode from Hunter S. Thompson’s secret diary. Still with me? Good. Coyote was up next with a spirited couple of covers (Costello’s Watching The Detectives and Billy Bragg’s – via Florence Reece – Which Side Are You On Boys), plus a couple of originals, the pick of which was Baboom (?) a punk tinged piece of (Julian) Cope-ish magic featuring the frenetic bongoing of Kath. I do love a little frenetic bongoing.
Time for the main acts, first up Derrick D and the Backbones. Imagine Marvin Gaye collaborating with Gil Scott Heron and Howard from the old Halifax ads and that’ll give you some idea of their first track Asylum City. Derrick’s got a fine voice and he switches seamlessly from the kind of high notes that normally require you to trap your nuts in a door to a mellow croon and then onto some deep bass notes. Joined by The Supercilious Ms T who adds her own unique vocal tics, Kath on bongo duty and a bassist and guitarist it’s an impressively rich sound, pretty much the perfect accompaniment for Derrick’s thought provoking words too. Apple Watch, a tale a young Bangladeshi’s American dream turned nightmare was particularly strong.
As the various members of headliners Miss Halliwell gathered together to do battle band member Samurl played some neat self produced old skool/new skool post house tracks ending, appropriately enough with the Miles Perhower voiced W A R F A R E (I may have just made that title up...I do that kind of thing).
As you’ll know if you read the preview of this gig you’ll be aware that tonight’s setlist consisted of 90% new stuff...or 100% new stuff if you’d never seen ‘em before (shame on you). I’m delighted to report that it’s business as UNusual with opening number Dimwit acting as a grunting meet and greet to the crowd and Artisan’s skittering time changes unable to defeat Miles’ uncanny knack for delivering catchy singalong bits. As I may well have said before, it’s pop Jim but not as we know it. Miles plays with words like a cat with a mouse, flipping them round, tossing them in the air and watching the results with a knowing insouciance. Take Author Eyes for instance (knowing Miles I’m assuming that’s how the song title will be written) and it’s “allegedly gory / allegory” line. Delicious stuff. Behind him Rose of Bearwood beat the drums so hard there was a real risk that they’d end up in the Bullring by the end of proceedings whilst still somehow keeping track of the schizophrenic melodies that have presumably sprung from Miles’s fertile imagination in the wee small hours. And then...a COVER. Yes. A cover. Not since The Fall dug out R. Dean Taylor’s There’s a Ghost In My House has a Motown classic been so thoroughly revitalised. Seasons saw Miles on the floor...literally and metaphorically...delivering a nihilistic anthem before rising, Christ like (okay, I’d had a cider or two by this point), to defiantly sneer his way through Natrul Obbit @, ambling around the stage adjusting the volume on things and fiddling with guitar pedals before wandering off back into the shadows once more. Still simply peerless. @’s the way to do it.
The next Sunday Xpress happens on June 29th, 4pm-ish until whenever things come to their natural conclusion. Details here. Huge respect to all those involved in putting these events on and a spanked bottom to me for not dragging my sorry old carcass down there before.